What’s so special about Hemingway?

Last week we shared a some of the many authors who’ve been influenced by Ernest Hemingway, whose seminal role in American literature was highlighted in Lynn Novick and Ken Burns’ recent documentary Hemingway. Yet viewers of that show may have noted the intriguing fact that those interviewed often didn’t agree upon which of his works had merit, or why. Edna O’Brien, who defends Hemingway against charges of misogyny, dismisses The Old Man and the Sea as childish, while Mario Vargas Llosa regards it as Hemingway’s masterpiece. Vargas Llosa dissolves into chuckles over the bad writing in For Whom the Bell Tolls, while the late Senator John McCain regards it as “the great American novel,” speaking movingly about the book’s profound effect upon him. After watching hours of the author’s wife-hopping, self-aggrandizement, and mounting alcoholism and paranoia, viewers might be forgiven for wondering just what is the big deal about Ernest Hemingway? Continue reading “What’s so special about Hemingway?”

13 Tales for 13 Nights of Halloween

It’s that time of year again: time to gather round for a bone-chilling storytime. I’m so sad not to be joining you all at Lotties’ Lounge, Tippe & Drague, Floating Bridge, The Palace Theatre, Capitol Cider, The Pine Box, or any of the other wonderful venues where we’ve done ‘Ales from the Crypt over the past years. This year we’ll drink alone, but allow me to read you something scary on each of the 13 nights between now and Hallowe’en.

The House of the Nightmare, by Edward Lucas White. A car accident, a dark lonely road, a seemingly abandoned house, and a strange boy. Recorded July 2020.

The Red Lodge, by H. Russell Wakefield. A man moves into an old house with his family and begins to suspect that it is haunted. Recorded live, October 2017.

The Red Room, by H.G. Wells. Do you dare to spend just one night alone, in the Red Room? Recorded September 2020. Continue reading “13 Tales for 13 Nights of Halloween”

The Haunted Podcasts of Autumn

Image of frightened person courtesy of Camila Quintero Franco, via UnsplashWell, we’ve definitely turned the corner into the spookiest time of year. No, I don’t mean election season: I’m talking about the lead up to Hallowe’en. This time last year – and for the past five years – I’d be stepping out into the chill winds of Autumn to go read haunting ‘Ales from the Crypt in bars all over the city. Instead, we’ll be doing weekly Thrilling Tales Podcasts all October long of vintage spooky stories, for your shivery delight.

Never mind the hackneyed jump scares and bloated CGI monstrosities bursting from forth your TV screens this October, leaving nothing to your imagination. For real spookiness, there’s nothing quite like turning down the lights, pulling up the covers, and treating yourself to a mug of something warm, and a voice coming out of the darkness, reading you a thoroughly chilling story unearthed from the mouldering past. Nobody beats those bygone Edwardian and Victorian authors for casting a Continue reading “The Haunted Podcasts of Autumn”

Pandemic Post-Apocalyptic Podcast

It was amazing, astounding, this loss of communication with the world. It was exactly as if the world had ceased, been blotted out. …With the coming of the Scarlet Death the world fell apart, absolutely, irretrievably.
The Scarlet Plague, by Jack London

Just a handful of years after the novella quoted above came out, the world was plunged into a global pandemic that claimed over 50 million lives. Jack London didn’t live to see it, but he had recently witnessed the ominous return of the Black Death, a startling outbreak of bubonic plague in turn-of-the-century San Francisco that is recounted in David Randall’s Black Death at the Golden Gate. What’s more, he had the foresight to know that worse – much worse – was to come:

Now this is the strange thing about these germs. There were always new ones coming to live in men’s bodies. …the more men there were, the more thickly were they packed together on the earth, the more new kinds of germs became diseases. There were warnings. Soldervetzsky, as early as 1929, told the bacteriologists that they had no guaranty against some new disease, a thousand times more deadly than any they knew, arising and killing by the hundreds of millions and even by the billion.  

While not all of the predictions in London’s vision of America circa 2013 ring true – personal dirigibles, anyone? – his pandemic prophecies have only gained force. In H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, humankind is saved by micro-organisms; in London’s The Scarlet Plague, these same germs turn on us, and almost win. Looking back from the year 2073 on the devastation, an old man attempts to teach his grandsons how to relight the torch of civilization, with the aid of that most precious tool: books! Continue reading “Pandemic Post-Apocalyptic Podcast”

Panic on the Rails in our Thrilling Tales podcast

Two trains speed toward each other in a blizzard, as a killer wanders the night! Melodrama on the rails, in this week’s Thrilling Tales: Storytime for Grownups, available now! On May 20, 1920 the readers opening the new issue of Metropolitan magazine were captivated by a heart-stopping tale entitled The Signal Tower, by Wadsworth Camp. Never heard of him? Neither had I! Most of the details we know about the man come from biographies of his daughter Madeleine L’Engle, the beloved author of A Wrinkle in Time. Camp was known in his day as the author of several excellent mystery novels, many of which were adapted to the stage or screen. Continue reading “Panic on the Rails in our Thrilling Tales podcast”